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So back in the late eighties DC decided to reboot Superman by making him less powerful and making changes to his back story. Specifically, that he never had been Superboy, didn't meet Lex Luthor until both were adults, etc.

The character of the Silver Age Superboy was revealed to have been a creation of the Legion foe, the Time Trapper, and was killed off in a Legion of Superheroes story. Now, wait a minute. The Silver Age Superman was supposed to have been the mature version of that Superboy character and, in his mag, made frequent references to events that had occurred in either the Superboy or Adventure Comics.

But if Superboy had been killed, who was the Superman who remembered having been Superboy? Did they ever address this in-universe?

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    I think the basic idea was: "In the Post-Crisis version of the DCU, Silver Age Superman never existed. All previous stories about 'Clark Kent as an adult' never happened in the Time Trapper's Pocket Universe, nor anywhere else, so the fans don't need to worry about them!" But I'm only making this a "comment" because, off the top of my head, I don't know where I could quickly find a quote from someone "on the inside" (such as the writers and editors working on Superman's Reboot in the late 1980s) to back that up as a solid, detailed Answer that was guaranteed accurate in every detail. – Lorendiac Apr 8 at 1:51
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The answer is ... complicated.

In Crisis on Infinite Earths, a red energy wall consumed entire universes across time. In the main DC universe, this wall was seen in both the 'today' timeline and the future Legion of Superheroes timeline. In the end, a single Earth was created instead of the multiverse, with many characters gone, who never existed in the resulting timeline, including Supergirl and Superboy. The surviving versions of heroes also differed in many respects from before; e.g., Superman had never been Superboy. John Byrne's Superman reboot followed from Crisis.

The Time Trapper saved a small portion of the original main DC timeline, containing Superboy's Smallville and not much else, neither before or after Superboy's time. IIRC, we actually see this pocket universe shrinking during the story. So, even though Superboy survived for a time in this pocket, his adult version had vanished, so no paradox ensued freom him dying to save the legionnaires who had travelled to the pocket universe.

Alan Moore and Curt Swan did a story that tied up the final fate of the Silver Age Superman if his universe hadn'ty been destroyed: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

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    I'll accept that as an answer, but the whole mess is particularly unsatisfying. As an aside, I've read "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" and find that story a more suitable capstone to the character than winking out of existence. – Emsley Wyatt Apr 9 at 3:25
  • I agree that it is an unsatisfying mess. It was particularly messy for Legion of Superheroes, which were supposed to be inspired by Superboy - who now had never existed. And Brainiac 5 was in live with Supergirl, who now had never existed, either, – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Apr 9 at 8:09
  • @KlausÆ.Mogensen On his website, John Byrne describes his recollection of how it happened that this "Time Trapper/Pocket Universe Superboy" thing was invented somewhat belatedly after a Superman editor got frantic about doing damage control regarding the Legion's Pre-Crisis continuity about "we were inspired by Superboy!" byrnerobotics.com/FAQ/… – Lorendiac Apr 9 at 17:47

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